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Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Decaying Infrastructure Of Complex Society II

Bridge Collapse
AP photo, August 1, 2007
I posted about infrastructure collapse less than two weeks ago when New York had that steam pipe explosion. I wonder how fast and furious these failures are going to come at us? It doesn't look good.

From The Christian Science Monitor:
According to engineers, the nation is spending only about two-thirds as much as it should be to keep dams, levees, highways, and bridges safe. The situation is more urgent now because many such structures were designed 40 or 50 years ago, before Americans were driving weighty SUVs and truckers were lugging tandem loads.

It all adds up to a poor grade: The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation a D in 2005, the latest report available, after assessing 12 categories of infrastructure ranging from rails and roads to wastewater treatment and dams.
[emphasis mine]


"One of America's great assets is its infrastructure, but if you don't invest it deteriorates," says Patrick Natale, executive director of ASCE.

Among scores of recent examples:
  • Last month, a 100-year-old steam pipe erupted in midtown Manhattan, killing one man and causing millions of dollars in lost business.
  • The inadequacies of levees in New Orleans became horrifyingly clear in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. The city is still recovering.
  • In 2003, the Silver Lake Dam in Michigan failed, causing $100 million in damage.
The investigations on the Minneapolis bridge collapse have barely been undertaken as yet, of course, but it's a safe bet that this is yet another example of the state of our complex society's core infrastructure, upon which so much of the modern economy depends, is in danger.

We are beyond "warnings" now... it's happening.

Update: I don't know if the Treasury could bear it, but is it time for another FDR-style WPA? With economic uncertainty at the workers' level looming, the shameful (but inevitable) bubble-pop of the home mortgage situation, and the general predilection to elect more liberal politicians into office... is it possible? We certainly have a lot of things which are aching for public attention. Personally I feel that, with oil reaching peak production vis escalating demand, the vast highways of America are probably the last place for wise investment at this point. A lot of oil is consumed in the construction and structure of these highways, which are designed after all, to enable vehicles to burn oil whilst they zip across the country.

Of course, we could afford quite a bit if we stopped dumping money into the failed Iraqupation. But, then again, we're there to try to secure cheap resources. A ghoulish dilemma...

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